Tag Archives: Chamber music

Autumn ‘mini-tour’: Duo Concerts with Douglas Holligan in Edinburgh and St Andrews 15th and 19th October

 

 

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It’s been a little while since I did some duo playing and so it has been extra rewarding to get together with fine pianist Douglas Holligan and start working on our duo programme for two concerts this October.

Our programme is a very interesting one, including two lesser played works. The first is Vaughan Williams’ charming Romance for Viola and Piano, which was published posthumously and probably intended for the viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis. The second is Shostakovich’s final work: his Sonata for viola and piano Op. 147 – a towering work covering the whole range of emotions, including what he himself described as ‘an adagio in memory of Beethoven’ which uses quotations from the Moonlight Sonata. Dedicated to the violist of the Beethoven quartet, Fyodor Druzhinin, it was composed just weeks before his death and you can almost hear the meditations on death and the afterlife in the elegiac outer movements. The playful middle movement draws heavily on music Shostakovich had written for an abandoned opera called The Gamblers, based on a Gogol play, and presents many challenges for both instruments, not least several passages of chromatic double-stopped parallel fourths!

Our first concert is 15th October at the Edinburgh Society of Musicians in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, at 7.30pm. This concert will also include piano works by Bach and Rachmaninov. The second concert is in St Andrews at The Byre Theatre at 1.10pm on Weds October 19th. Hope to see you at one of them (or both!)

Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Byre Theatre, 22nd-24th June

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Bored of the Referendum campaigns? Then come down to the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, on the 22nd, 23rd or 24th June and see Byre Opera’s performance of Britten’s ghostly masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw. It is based on the novel by Henry James about a governess who goes to look after 2 children in a remote house, and the unearthly happenings that start to unfold after she arrives.

I am playing viola in the chamber orchestra, and this is the third Britten opera I have played in. I have come to like Britten’s style of writing- good tunes interspersed with idiomatic vocal writing, plus the advantage of the text being in English and therefore  easily understandable for the audience. Britten’s operas are often very inclusive, containing parts for children, and this opera is no exception – Miles is played by 2 young boys (there are 2 casts for different performances).

The facebook event is here and you will find Byre Opera on instagram as @byre_opera. Look forward to seeing you there – tickets are selling fast!

We are also touring the performance to Stirling MacRobert on 28th June and The Maltings, Berwick on 8th July if you can’t make the St Andrews performances.

 

Concerts in Oct and Nov

October and November are relatively busy months for me, as I have 3 chamber music concerts in short succession:

7.30pm Friday 25th October, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh – St Patrick’s Ensemble play Johann Strauss and new commission “St Ambrose and the Bees” by Helene Grosvenor as part of a charity event : “Concert for Bees”

This concert will feature Paul Livingston, Daniel Miller, myself and James Tradgett playing a quartet of instruments called the “Sherlock Quartet”. These four instruments, 2 violins, a viola and a cello, were made by Steve Burnett from a 200-year old sycamore that stood in Arthur Conan Doyle’s childhood home in Liberton, Edinburgh, which he is said to have climbed as a child. The “Sherlock” violin was made by Burnett to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Conan Doyle’s birth and you can hear Paul playing it on Radio Scotland if you’re up early and tune in between  6.30am and 7am!

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1.10pm, Tues 12th Nov, Reid Hall, EdinburghLunchtime concert with Audrey Innes and Jean Murray as part of Edinburgh University Lunchtime Concert Series

I am playing the dramatic and beautiful Hindemith Viola Sonata Op 11 No 4 with Audrey, and Jean Murray with play the Hindemith flute sonata, again with Audrey on piano – a celebration of Paul Hindemith’s works!

1.10pm, Weds 20th Nov, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime Concert with St Andrews String Trio

We’re playing Beethoven’s entertaining and boisterous Serenade No 8 and Schubert’s Trio in B flat, D471, so come along in your lunch hour if you work in St Andrews for some string chamber music (free to music centre members and £2 to non members)

1.10pm, Weds 27th Nov, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime concert with Paul Livingston, violin

Mozart’s elegant Duo in B flat for violin and viola plus the showy Halvorsen arrangement of Handel’s G minor Chaconne and other pieces tbc.

Hope to see you at one or more of these concerts. Thanks for your support.

Concert tomorrow!

Well, the day before the concert has arrived. Here is the final (or not so final…) line up:

Jess – selection of unaccompanied Bach from Cello Suites (gigues and menuets)

Trio – Schubert movement (Violin/viola/cello)
Clarinet and piano duo – lighter music… TBC
Trad Scottish tunes (viola) TBC
Watch this space for repertoire developments!! Or simply turn up at 1pm tomorrow and come to the concert! Your choice 🙂

All pieces performed by current or past members of the Heisenberg Ensemble, in aid of the 25th Anniversary Fund. Admission free but retiring collection with be taken, Refreshments available from 12.15pm.

ALL WELCOME!!!

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Hope to see you there!! 🙂

 

Jess xxx

With a little help from my friends… An open invitation!

An Open Invitation: ‘With a little help from my friends’

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Thursday 29th August

St Andrews Church, Queen’s Terrace, St Andrews

1.30pm

PROGRAMME:

Cello suites/Scottish Music/Surprise!!

Who, me?

Who, me?

You will need:

FRIENDS…….
FAMILY……..
CAKE……
MONEY…..

Tea/wine/champagne…….

Your ears!

The plan:

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The charities:

Heisenberg (Jill Craig)

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Families First (St Andrews)

Sistema Scotland/In Harmony

Arts in Fife/Dundee

Drake Music Scotland

Music in Hospitals

Military Wives Choir (Gareth Malone)

Scottish Ensemble {insert group here}

Rokpa/Tibetan Children’s Villages/ICT

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Brooklands College

Signpost International (Dundee)

Just Made/Gillian Gamble

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Pragya (India)

RSPCA/RSPB/Big cat rescue

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!! Answers on a post card to: Jess Long!

Chamber music and sensitivity

The week before last I attended a new chamber music course in St Andrews called ‘Strings in Spring’, which was coached by the fantastic Fitzwilliam Quartet (composed of Lucy Russell, Marcus Barcham-Stevens, Alan George and Heather Tuach). It was a chance for local string players to receive expert coaching from these eminent musicians, and to hear some top class playing when it came to their own concert. My trio (a string trio, which is a quartet minus the second violin) went along and we got some great advice on playing Mozart and Beethoven, as well as the unforgettable opportunity to play the first movement of Schubert’s ‘Rosamunde’ quartet with Lucy Russell playing second violin!

We also had the chance to play in a string ensemble for some of the sessions, and covered everything from Purcell’s Fairy Queen to Elgar’s Serenade and Mendelssohn’s Octet, which was really good fun, as members of the quartet are also specialists in Baroque playing and could advise us on how to get the most authentic sounds out of our instruments, and the benefits of playing with gut strings and baroque bows.

It was when I went to hear the quartet play in their own concert, entitled ‘Latest and Last’ as they played the last quartets composed by Mozart and Haydn as well as some recently written works, that I was struck by an aspect of playing music that I had never considered before. Musicians, especially those playing chamber music, have to be minutely aware of the subtleties of the other players’ playing, so that if one player suddenly decides to take time or change the dynamic in one phrase, the others must notice this and immediately adapt to it. This sensitivity to the tiniest changes in pitch, timing, dynamics and many other factors is helped along in a quartet by the fact that its members (hopefully) know each other very well and can anticipate what each other will do. Of course rehearsal is also essential to get to know the music and where the difficult patches are, but in performances, spontaneous things can happen and mistakes can creep in into the most well rehearsed passage, and the adaptability of chamber musicians in these situations is key to the success (or failure) of the performance. I remember when I was playing in a quartet in a concert (I think it was a fairly light hearted piece Schubert), and the cellist decided mischieviously to pause for longer than we had rehearsed before playing his pizz, thus momentarily throwing me and the rest of the quartet – but since we knew the piece well, we quickly adapted. This responsiveness, coupled with musicians’ heightened awareness of moods and emotions portrayed in music, means that as chamber musicians we can read music that we don’t know and pick up some of the nuances of it straight away.

The intimacy of chamber music is a large part of the reason I like it so much – you can hear yourself and your own sound very clearly (as opposed to in an orchestra where others are playing your part and it is more difficult to hear yourself), and you can bring your own interpretations to the music, as there are a much smaller number of players in the group and you are not being directed from the podium. Chamber music allows musicians to express their personalities through the music, and to interpret the composers’ intentions directly, without the medium of the conductor. A large part of chamber music is the close relationship of the players to each other, and the fact that you use eye contact and visual cues much more to be aware of what the other players are doing – without this, it is very unlikely that a string quartet or chamber group would ever be fully together. (This is the same in orchestras and choirs, only it is the responsibility of the conductor to make sure everyone is together). You will often see quartet players looking up from their music and looking at each other for large parts of the music – they know the piece so well that they can play from memory and use the music as an aide, concentrating instead on the ensemble. This strategy is great, until you are sight reading a piece or don’t know it very well – I’ve lost count of the number of times I have looked up and then completely lost my place in the music!

I leave you with a funny quotation from an unknown musician on the nature of quartet playing:

‘A quartet is four people who used to be friends….’

 

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Best Music Blogs.

Review of Dundee lunchtime concert with Audrey Innes on 8th March

I forgot to post the rather nice review that was published in the Dundee Courier after Audrey and I played at Dundee University Chaplaincy on Friday 8th March. Here it is:

Friday’s lunchtime concert in the University chaplaincy promised much, and delivered even more. It was given by the duo of Jessica Wyatt on viola with Audrey Innes at the piano.

Composed in 1849, when technical improvements had made the French horn an instrument with new possibilities, Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro is a delightful work, the second part of which is full of joyous whoops referring back to the horn’s hunting origins. It has often been adapted for other instruments, and, perhaps surprisingly, it seems to suit the viola perfectly. The sound is completely different, perhaps without the effervescence of the horn version, but with a rich sound more akin to later compositions of Brahms.

The performance by the two artists brought out all the extra lyricism encouraged by the use of a stringed instrument and the slower pace.

Paul Hindemith, like many composers, fell out of fashion after his death. Even after half a century performances of his music are rare. The fact that much of it is attractively lyrical told against him when modernism was the fashion. He played a number of instruments to a high standard, and led the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra until war service. But he seems to have had a particular affection for the viola, switching to that instrument when he returned to civilian life after the First World War.

His Viola Sonata, composed in 1919, is a superbly demanding piece, full of seriously testing music for both players, and it received a thoroughly enjoyable performance here.

Stephen Fraser